This Plant-Based Diet Is Healthy

Again and again, we emphasize that a vegan, i.e. a purely plant-based diet, is very healthy. However, you can also eat vegan and eat very unhealthy at the same time. If you put together your diet of high-fat fries, soft drinks, white bread, and sugar, then you eat vegan, but you are far from healthy. And while a healthy vegan diet protects against heart disease, an unhealthy vegan diet makes the heart just as bad as a diet containing animal products — which was also shown in a study.

Not every plant-based diet is healthy

Do you eat vegan or at least mainly vegan? Are you sure you are actually eating healthy? Many people believe that simply avoiding animal products is enough to do yourself a favor. However, that is a fallacy.

Hardly any differentiation has been made in the scientific literature either. It has always been said that plant-based diets play an important role in the prevention of heart disease. Because a diet that consists mainly of plant-based foods can prevent or even improve a wide variety of diseases – including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. But how exactly such a plant-based diet to protect the heart should look is rarely explained.

A lot of people die from heart disease. In the USA alone, more than 600,000 people every single year – according to the American disease control agency CDC. In Germany in 2015, there were at least 350,000 deaths due to heart problems. The CDC explained that an unhealthy diet is a major factor in the development of heart disease. Switching to a plant-based diet would therefore be extremely useful and beneficial.

Protect plant-based diets

In 2008, for example, Current Atherosclerosis Reports reported that epidemiological studies and human studies had discovered the following connection: The more consistently a plant-based diet was implemented, the lower the probability of dying from a heart-related death.

Another study in July 2014, based on almost 200 patients with cardiovascular diseases, showed that those who switched to a vegan diet were much better protected from a heart attack than those who followed the usual diet of meat and dairy products and fish remained.

In March 2017, Nutrition & Diabetes published the results of a randomized controlled trial in which participants (35 to 70 years old) were recommended a plant-based whole food diet to combat obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and coronary artery disease.

The vegan eaters were able to reduce their BMI by 4.4 points after 6 months, the control group, which had continued to eat normally, was only able to reduce their BMI by 0.4 points. All other risk factors for heart disease were also reduced more significantly in the vegan group than in the control group, which only received medication.

The different vegan diets

Rarely did researchers indicate exactly how the successful subjects had fed themselves. In this context, a research team from Harvard University in Boston has now shown that there are also plant-based diets that are not at all healthy but can damage the body enormously. Because vegan is not vegan. Here is a brief overview of the different forms of vegan nutrition:

  • Vegan whole foods with a high proportion of raw vegetables
  • Vegan raw food (which of course, like most of the following, can always be wholesome at the same time)
  • Vegan original diet (raw diet with, among other things, a high proportion of wild plants)
  • Vegan Ayurvedic food (almost exclusively cooked food, not always wholesome)
  • Low carb vegan
  • High carb vegan (80/10/10 = 80% carbohydrates, 10% protein, 10% fat)
  • Vegan junk food diet (healthy aspects are not considered here, the main thing is vegan)
  • … and of course an infinite number of mixed forms

The vegan junk food diet

The vegan junk food diet is about eating vegan, but not necessarily healthy. There are chips, alcohol, soft drinks, soy puddings, sweets, white bread, hot dogs with seitan sausages, vegan cakes, ice cream, sweets, gummy bears, coffee, and much more. Anything can be eaten as long as it’s vegan. Health aspects are unimportant.

So when studies are presented again and again that claim that the plant-based diet is so incredibly healthy, then some might think that it is actually enough to avoid only meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products to become healthy or it to stay, while the rest of the menu can remain and is supplemented with soy milk and imitation cheese according to taste. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, as the Harvard researchers around Dr. Ambika Satija in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in July 2017.

Plant-based diets are unhealthy like meat-based diets

The Harvard study used and evaluated 20 years of data from three major health studies – 166,030 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Nurses’ Health Study II and 43,259 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Participants who already had cancer or cardiovascular disease were excluded. During the study, 8,631 people developed coronary artery disease.

Since in earlier nutritional studies all plant-based forms of nutrition were more or less lumped together, the present study differentiated more precisely. There are three types of plant-based diets:

  • Diets that contain as much plant-based food as possible, but do not completely exclude animal-based foods
  • Diets that are purely vegan and contain as many healthy plant-based foods as possible, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Diets that tend to consist of rather unhealthy plant-based foods, such as B. sweetened drinks, potato products (chips, ready-made fries, ready-made croquettes, etc.), sweets and white flour products or white rice

It turned out that the participants in the second group – who lived vegan AND healthy – had a significantly reduced risk of developing heart disease than the other two groups.

The third group, like the first group, struggled with the negative effects of their diet on heart health.

Simply eating plant-based brings no benefits!

In the editorial of the article, Dr. Satija and colleagues write Dr. Kim Allan Williams of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago that it is very important to educate patients about the right plant-based food choices. Because just eating vegan definitely does not bring any health benefits.

Only a wholesome plant-based diet is healthy

A healthy vegan diet consists of the following food groups:

  • The staple foods are vegetables and fruits
  • The main drink is water

The staple foods are supplemented by:

  • Whole grain products (e.g. oatmeal, bread, pasta, whole grain rice, millet) or pseudocereals
  • legumes
  • nuts and oilseeds
  • Small amounts of high-quality fats and oils (e.g. olive oil, hemp oil, and coconut oil)
  • High-quality soy products (e.g. tofu, tofu patties, or similar)
  • Freshly squeezed vegetable or fruit juices (the latter only in small quantities)
  • … and the individually required nutritional supplements.
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Written by Micah Stanley

Hi, I'm Micah. I am a creative Expert Freelance Dietitian Nutritionist with years of experience in counseling, recipe creation, nutrition, and content writing, product development.

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